“I managed to secure payment for the instrument just three days before 9/11,” Bell said recently. “During the past 10 years, I've had my ups and downs with it — at the moment, it's not cooperating, so it's at the shop making sure one of the seams hasn't come open.”
Whenever a soloist acquires a new instrument, it's not unusual to spend several years learning about its strengths, weaknesses and tonal capabilities. Bell compares the process to working with a multicolored palette.
“It gives you so many possibilities,” Bell said of his Stradivarius. “You might be able to tear into the G string on one instrument, but it may lack a sweetness of tone. You learn new ways of making sounds as you grow with the instrument.”
This marks Bell's fourth OK Mozart appearance, having performed at the festival in 1992, 1995 and 2002. It's always a reunion of sorts because Bell has frequently played chamber music with many of the Amici New York Orchestra members.
“I always have a good time at OK Mozart because there's always a sense of celebrating the music,” Bell said. “Audiences seem to enjoy the festival because it's so relaxed. I've always felt it was a fun atmosphere, which is what listening to music should be in the summertime.”